If you have salespeople that rely heavily on their personal relationships with clients for achieving revenue objectives, beware: for that may not be a solid basis of doing business.
Let’s flip the coin from selling to buying. When you are making a major buying decision do you buy whatever your friends are selling, or do you seek to get the best value for your money? Never therefore, confuse personal and business relationships. And never forget that your client may have excellent personal and business relationships with your main competitor also.
Four Business Relationships
It is well-established that there are four types of business relationships: Social, Ad-hoc, Technical and Partner relationships. Generally, in social, ad-hoc and technical relationships the buyer controls the relationship, and while you may get some business they do not see you as being of strategic importance. Beware; for at times they may even be learning from you to better negotiate with your competitors!
With the partner relationship however, things are different. Whatever the buyer thinks you can do, they tend to ask you to do because they value your knowledge, thoughts, ideas and contacts. This is a personal strategic relationship. They buy you because they trust you to help them. They trust you to tell them who is the best provider of any service or product.
But given the salesperson’s tendency to optimism, too often we over-estimate the value that our clients place on the relationship, and we are devastated when overlooked by someone whom we thought was a strategic partner. It burns, and you may even feel betrayed. I know. It has happened to me.
So here’s a tip for sales professionals at all levels that are searching for a competitive advantage: Ruthlessly evaluate your business relationships at least once each quarter, for they are either growing or dying. And your reliance on some relationships, whether personal or business may be unfounded.
Herman D. Alvaranga is president of the Caribbean School of Sales Management.